Every company has a sales force, whether it’s a hat the owner wears or a group of 100 employees. Recent trends indicate that the nature of the force is changing. Inside sales positions appear to be outpacing and replacing the traditional outside sales person. The new face is a computer screen, telephone or any other means without the in-person contact. The trend encompasses a younger, lower paid and highly managed sales force.
Hiring a highly paid salesperson, with a big base and relying on their experience to develop business, then measuring their performance based on deals closed is a model that has increasingly become a dinosaur. When a company faces a sales cycle that could run six to twenty four months, businesses can no longer wait that long nor are they willing to make the investment for that time period. Well designed CRM and sales management software has brought a new paradigm to the sales process. With software automation tools that require sales staff to track every detail and force follow up, the in house sales person is very effective in following a prospect to close.
The traditional outside direct-sales model has experienced its reduced reliance with the employment of the internet by the customer’s purchasing departments. The key value brought into the formula by an outside sales person was information; the salesman had all the information that the customer was looking for. Price comparisons, product data sheets, competitive products and ratings, reviews by third parties, case studies and other valuable product insights are now downloaded and viewed by the buyers without reliance on the sales person. This new information access has also had an impact on the inside sales force. They have to recognize the customer is more knowledgeable and accordingly, must search for the customer’s needs and fit before pushing for a close. However, the inside sales force has access to pre-defined answers to questions raised and with the right tools, is armed with better facts and sales techniques to insure success.
As companies shift from outside sales to inside sales forces, they need to shift the methods used by the inside sales force. In the past, 100 cold calls would yield X interested and that would yield Y closed sales. Today, with automation, the computer serves up warm leads that a savvy trained sales force armed with understanding the target’s industry, business and needs, can close a lot quicker. This also improves the bottom line, as the cost of an inside sales program is substantially lower than conventional outside sales.
The take-away on this matter is 1) have you looked at your sales operation and redesigned it to fit the new inside sales model? 2) are you using the experience of your outside sales force to improve your inside sales force? and 3) have you employed the new tools that make a sales force more effective and less reliant on face to face meetings?
Sales is an art and a science. Will the outside sales person ever really be replaced by a phone call or computer store front? Probably not, but there is a lot to be gained by adapting your rain maker’s processes, techniques and success keys to your inside sales force as best you can and this will benefit the entire organization.